Students from California State University are protesting continuing fee hikes with a hunger strike. Apparently students from six campuses vow not to eat until administrators agree to freeze tuition.

According to an article by Carla Rivera in the Los Angeles Times:

Members of Students for Quality Education said that the hunger strike will begin Wednesday and involve 13 students at the Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Northridge, Sacramento and San Bernardino campuses.

In addition to a five-year tuition freeze and administrative pay cuts, students are calling for more free speech rights on campus and the elimination of housing and car allowances for the system’s 23 campus presidents. Speaking during a telephone news conference Friday, several of the students said they decided on the fast after Chancellor Charles Reed and Board of Trustees Chairman A. Robert Linscheid failed to meet with them or adequately respond to their concerns.

Tuition has increased every year at Cal State for the last six years. At the same time some Cal State presidents are getting $324,500 in annual base pay.

This is understandably disturbing to students. “They keep raising salaries and have those other luxuries,” Cal State Long Beach student Donnie Bessom told Rivera. “We thought the symbolic nature of a hunger strike was appropriate to the crisis.”

While I’m sympathetic to the students’ concerns, their anger seems misdirected. Presidential salaries might be symbolically high, but they’re a tiny part of the CSU budget. It’s not “housing and car allowances for the system’s 23 campus presidents” that are driving up college costs; it’s declining state funding. The governor’s budget provides $2 billion in state funding to CSU for the 2012-13 school year (provided California voters approve his budget in November). That’s the lowest level of state support for CSU in 15 years.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer